Few Republicans have kind words for the Environmental Protection Agency. Many refer to it as a menacing, conspiratorial madhouse—rather than an agency that takes up 0.2 percent of the federal government’s budget to keep the air and water clean. Michele Bachmann once pledged to padlock its doors; John Boehner has called it “nuts”; and Mitch McConnell says getting “the EPA reined in” will be a top priority when he ascends to Senate majority leader come January.
Those who insist the EPA needs muzzling claim it is consistently “overreaching” and making laws at “unprecedented” rates. (The agency is “a regulatory firehose on U.S. business,” intoned the Wall Street Journal.) But such bellows are at odds with the reality. According to the Office of Management and Budget, from 2001 to 2011, EPA regulations accounted for annual benefits to the country worth between $141 billion and $691 billion, while incurring annual costs between $42.4 billion and $66.3 billion. As of 2010, fewer Clean Air Act rules had been proposed or issued under the Obama administration than during the same point in the presidencies of George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.